Welcome
   Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Authors
Works by Thucydides
Pages of History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II



Previous | Next
                  

History of The Peloponnesian War - Book II   


boldly and trust in themselves. Thus choosing to die resisting, rather
than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonour, but met danger
face to face, and after one brief moment, while at the summit of their
fortune, escaped, not from their fear, but from their glory.
"So died these men as became Athenians. You, their survivors, must
determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you
may pray that it may have a happier issue. And not contented with
ideas derived only from words of the advantages which are bound up
with the defence of your country, though these would furnish a
valuable text to a speaker even before an audience so alive to them as
the present, you must yourselves realize the power of Athens, and feed
your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your
hearts; and then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you
must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling
of honour in action that men were enabled to win all this, and that no
personal failure in an enterprise could make them consent to deprive
their country of their valour, but they laid it at her feet as the
most glorious contribution that they could offer. For this offering of
their lives made in common by them all they each of them
individually received that renown which never grows old, and for a
sepulchre, not so much that in which their bones have been
deposited, but that noblest of shrines wherein their glory is laid
up to be eternally remembered upon every occasion on which deed or
story shall call for its commemoration. For heroes have the whole
earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the
column with its epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every
breast a record unwritten with no tablet to preserve it, except that
of the heart. These take as your model and, judging happiness to be
the fruit of freedom and freedom of valour, never decline the
dangers of war. For it is not the miserable that would most justly
be unsparing of their lives; these have nothing to hope for: it is
rather they to whom continued life may bring reverses as yet
unknown, and to whom a fall, if it came, would be most tremendous in
its consequences. And surely, to a man of spirit, the degradation of
cowardice must be immeasurably more grievous than the unfelt death
which strikes him in the midst of his strength and patriotism!
"Comfort, therefore, not condolence, is what I have to offer to
the parents of the dead who may be here. Numberless are the chances to
which, as they know, the life of man is subject; but fortunate
indeed are they who draw for their lot a death so glorious as that
which has caused your mourning, and to whom life has been so exactly
measured as to terminate in the happiness in which it has been passed.
Still I know that this is a hard saying, especially when those are
in question of whom you will constantly be reminded by seeing in the
homes of others blessings of which once you also boasted: for grief is
felt not so much for the want of what we have never known, as for
the loss of that to which we have been long accustomed. Yet you who
are still of an age to beget children must bear up in the hope of
having others in their stead; not only will they help you to forget
those whom you have lost, but will be to the state at once a
reinforcement and a security; for never can a fair or just policy be
expected of the citizen who does not, like his fellows, bring to the
decision the interests and apprehensions of a father. While those of
you who have passed your prime must congratulate yourselves with the
thought that the best part of your life was fortunate, and that the
brief span that remains will be cheered by the fame of the departed.
For it is only the love of honour that never grows old; and honour
it is, not gain, as some would have it, that rejoices the heart of age
and helplessness.
"Turning to the sons or brothers of the dead, I see an arduous
struggle before you. When a man is gone, all are wont to praise him,
and should your merit be ever so transcendent, you will still find
it difficult not merely to overtake, but even to approach their
renown. The living have envy to contend with, while those who are no

Previous | Next
Site Search